Tonight, 8 p.m.
Rexall Place | Edmonton, Alberta
TV: NHL Network, TSN
This is definitely not how the USA head coach Dean Blais envisioned tonight's game shaping up. After consecutive preliminary-round losses to Finland and the Czech Republic, the Americans don't have much to play for other than pride. They round out their opening round with tonight's game vs. Canada at Rexall Place, and the Canadians have already clinched the top spot in their group.
Blais hopes his team rebounds and has a strong showing against their border rivals, but it won't have nearly the build-up that previous meetings in 2011 and 2010 (gold-medal game) generated. The USA's hopes of avoiding the relegation round dissipated last night when Finland rolled over Denmark, meaning the Americans can finish no better than seventh in this year's World Junior.
Scott Wedgewood starts in goal tonight for Canada, according to head coach Don Hay. It would appear that Wedgewood is being handed the No. 1 job and Mark Visentin is the backup goaltender, but Hay has kept his goalie decisions close to the vest. Jack Campbell is the presumed starter for the Americans.
Some CBJ-related tidbits:
-- We haven't heard much about Blue Jackets prospects Lukas Sedlak and Petr Straka so far in this year's tournament, but both were noticeable players in the Czechs win over Team USA. Sedlak was a reliable penalty-killer and Straka played well in limited action - he was ejected in the first period for a major penalty incurred following a massive hit on USA's Derek Forbort.
-- T.J. Tynan played big minutes in the top six for Blais in the loss to the Czechs, and was easily one of the Americans' top players. He will likely be in the same spot tonight against Canada.
-- Another big game for Boone Jenner tonight and the pressure only goes up from here. He's been a spark plug for Canada and his aggressive style of play unnerves opponents. Look for him with Brett Connolly again tonight at 5-on-5 and on the penalty kill.
While the Blue Jackets were busy beating the Dallas Stars last night at American Airlines Center, one of their top prospects turned in a solid performance on junior hockey's biggest stage. Team Canada continued its torrid pace in the preliminary round of the 2012 World Junior Hockey Championship, keeping the Rexall Place crowd entertained from start to finish in a 10-2 win over Denmark.
It's a tough position for the Canadians, because while they know they're a far better team than Denmark, they have to "pour it on" to not lose their killer instinct in the later rounds. Blue Jackets draft pick Boone Jenner, captain of the OHL's Oshawa Generals, picked up a pair of assists in Canada's rout and continued to be a physical presence all over the ice. He's stepped up in the leadership department, too, as Devante Smith-Pelly is out for the rest of the tournament. Canada head coach Don Hay has shown no hesitancy to use Jenner on the top penalty-killing units, and he was the first forward out for a 5-on-3 disadvantage earlier this week.
For the Americans, they need to rebound big-time.
Their 4-1 loss to Finland on Wednesday was as shocking as it was a major setback. John Gibson struggled in goal, but USA head coach Dean Blais did not back down from his decision to start him over Jack Campbell. It's expected that Campbell is back in goal today against the Czech Republic (featuring Blue Jackets prospects Lukas Sedlak and Petr Straka), but the Americans' struggles against Finland were hardly the fault of the goaltender.
T.J. Tynan's game has come along as the tournament progresses, and he certainly caught the eye of NHL Network analyst Dave Starman. Starman regularly covers NCAA hockey for CBS Sports and the Notre Dame forward has garnered praise for his versatility.
Starman (@DaveStarmanCBS) tweeted this in response to a question about Tynan: "Showing great speed and hockey sense. Need to see him generate chances tmw - so gifted as a playmaker.
Today's game gets under way at 3:30 p.m. on the NHL Network.
Canada 5, Czech Republic 0
W: Wedgewood (CAN)
L: Mrazek (CZE)
Mark Stone may not need to do much else to earn MVP honors in this tournament. The WHL's leading scorer with the Brandon Wheat Kings kept on rolling tonight at Rexall Place and brought his Team Canada mates along with him. Stone's fourth goal of the World Junior came at 5:37 of the first period, thanks to a sweet setup from Florida Panthers draft pick Jonathan Huberdeau - and it stood as the game-winner.
Canada coach Don Hay elected to start Scott Wedgewood in goal for their second preliminary game, and it paid off as the youngster turned in a 26-save shutout to help Canada improve the 2-0-0 in the tournament and gain control of its group. Coupled with the USA's 4-1 loss to Finland, Canada controls its own fate in group play before the border rivals meet on New Year's Eve.
How about some CBJ tidbits from tonight's game?
-- Blue Jackets draft pick Lukas Sedlak had a solid game for the Czechs, and was out there frequently against Canada's top players. He nor any of his teammates were able to record a point, but it was a steady performance for Sedlak whose team fell to 1-1-0 overall.
-- Boone Jenner was noticeable once again for the Canadians, getting in on the forecheck and wreaking havoc alongside linemates Michael Bournival and Brett Connolly. One moment sticks out for Jenner tonight: as the Czechs operated on a two-man advantage late in the first period, Hay called on Jenner to be one of three players responsible for killing the penalties. Jenner spent the first 45 seconds using his active stick to break up passes and clear the puck, and Canada ended up unscathed.
Big day for both the Americans and Team Canada at the World Junior in Edmonton. First up this afternoon is USA vs. Finland at 3:30 p.m. EST from Rexall Place, and there's a lot to play for in this one. The Finns didn't start very well against Canada on Monday and got behind the eight-ball quickly, dropping an 8-1 final in a game that saw Mark Stone notch a hat trick. Canada faces off against the Czech Republic in the night cap, an 8 p.m. start in the same building.
That performance was uncharacteristic for the typically-disciplined Finnish squad, known for its prowess on the power play and on the rush. They only had a handful of quality opportunities in the game, but Canadian goaltender Mark Visentin was equal to the task and yielded just the lone goal. Canada coach Don Hay announced this morning that New Jersey Devils prospect Scott Wedgewood is the starter in goal for Canada, the first for the youngster in his World Junior career.
For the Americans, it's a test because they rolled through their opening game against Denmark. Without a doubt, the competition level goes up a notch vs. Finland and even more so considering the Finns' disappointing tournament opener. Dean Blais will likely start John Gibson of the Kitchener Rangers in goal to get minutes for each of his goaltenders early in the tournament.
Updates from Blue Jackets land at the World Junior:
-- T.J. Tynan is in the lineup today for the Americans, and one thing to watch for is his power-play time. Blais used Tynan on the left point of the USA power play in the opener, and it created one-timers and seam passes. Maybe he will be back in that spot once again this afternoon.
-- Devante Smith-Pelly's tournament-ending injury likely means a significant bump in Boone Jenner's ice time. Jenner was the talk of Canada's opener with a pair of monstrous hits and plenty of shifts on the penalty kill. Smith-Pelly and Jenner play similar styles, and Hay may elect to elevate Jenner in the absence of Canada's captain.
USA 11, Denmark 3
W: Campbell (USA)
L: Feuk (DEN)
This game was all USA right from the beginning.
Following the opening act from host Canada may have been difficult, but the Americans were equally impressive in scoring 11 goals against Denmark and cruising to a tournament-opening victory last night at Rexall Place. Charlie Coyle notched a hat trick -- the second of the day in Edmonton -- and team captain Jason Zucker tallied a goal and two assists. Dallas Stars draft pick Jack Campbell was his usual cool, calm self between the pipes for head coach Dean Blais and made 21 saves.
One thing Blais won't be pleased with is his team's penalty killing. The Danes went 3-for-3 on the power play last night and scored two power-play goals in the first period to trail 3-2 after 20 minutes, but Coyle got Team USA off to a flying start. He tipped in Jon Merrill's shot 24 seconds into the game and set the tempo for the Americans.
Team USA also got goals from Kyle Rau, Jarred Tinordi, Nick Bjugstad, Bill Arnold and Stephen Johns. They have Tuesday off from tournament play, and resume their quest for gold on Wednesday against Finland. That game starts at 1:30 p.m. and will be broadcast live on the NHL Network.
More goodness from CBJ land at the World Junior:
Notre Dame center and Blue Jackets draft pick T.J. Tynan made his World Junior debut last night and picked up an assist on the eighth USA goal, scored by J.T. Miller. Blais used Tynan's versatility to his advantage, and frequently used Tynan on the left point of the power play. Tynan's right-hand shot allowed for several one-time opportunities, and overall, it was an effective unit: Team USA's power play was 3-for-4 on the night.
Canada 8, Finland 1
W: Visentin (CAN)
L: Gibson (FIN)
It was an electric atmosphere at Rexall Place in Edmonton as the Canadians (who actually dressed as the visiting team) opened the 2012 World Junior Hockey Championship against Finland. The thought among the media was that the Finns would be a tough out this year, just as they have been in years past, but they were out of this one early.
A combination of turnovers and penalty trouble propelled Canada to a 2-0 lead less than five minutes in, and the Finns never gave goaltender Christopher Gibson much help. Ottawa Senators draft pick Mark Stone lead the way with a hat trick, and Mark Visentin made 24 saves to get the win. Jonathan Huberdeau, first-round pick of the Florida Panthers this past June, recorded a five-point game with a goal and four assists.
Now to the good stuff:
- Blue Jackets draft pick Boone Jenner (second round, 2011) made a profound impact on the game and did so right out of the gate. TSN analyst Ray Ferraro praised Jenner's tenacity on the puck, especially given the Finns' skill off the rush and on the power play. Canada coach Don Hay used Jenner heavily 5-on-5 and had him in the top penalty-killing rotation.
- A pair of monster hits in the first period got the crowd going and Jenner delivered both. He opened on a line with Michael Bournival and Brett Connolly, a trio that was very aggressive in the offensive zone and got a few quality chances.
Here's what Twitter had to say about Boone Jenner's performance today:
Scott McLaughlin of College Hockey News (@smclaughlin9) tweets: "Also, I predict that fans from every other country will thoroughly despise Boone Jenner by the end of this tourney. Very physical/pesky."
Patrick King of Rogers Sportsnet: "Can someone remind me why Boone Jenner wasn't a first round pick? He's making an early impact on this game."
More from King: "Boone Jenner already reminds me of Marcus Foligno from last year's tournament. Solid decision bringing Jenner. #2012WJC"
TSN's James Duthie: "Huge Jenner hit before that goal... "And Boone goes the dynamite"